The Cleveland Browns will have a new-look, new-attitude defense with Mike Pettine and Jim O’Neill supervising operations. Fans will witness less zone, mostly man-to-man coverage. This defense revolves around cornerback play. They’re required to be aggressive at the line of scrimmage, disrupting routes before they begin. The whole intent is to force opposing quarterback’s into irrational decisions, throwing into traffic.

With this is mind, our defensive game plan relies on defensive backs holding receivers in check. This new look D has one Cleveland Brown in a new comfort zone, flashing signs of improvement. Buster Skrine appears more consistent in coverage while making plays on the ball with his athleticism. Despite being a natural inside slot corner in addition to critical opinion, Skrine isn’t surrendering the number two cornerback position.

The Georgia native is entering his fourth NFL season trying to secure his starting job. Skrine started 15 games last year and played in all 48 games of his career. The young, developing corner is coming off a career high 18 pass deflections. Buster Skrine isn’t scared though, welcoming the battle, “The competition definitely make you work a lot harder because everybody out here wants to play.”

Additionally, Skrine had some words of advice for his rookie counterpart, Justin Gilbert, “You’re going to get a lot of balls thrown at you. They don’t throw on Joe’s side.” Gilbert optimistically accepted the challenge by replying, “OK, that’s going to give me a lot of opportunities to make plays as well.”

For this reason, one can’t help but admire the rookie’s confidence despite being unproven. Certainly, the former Oklahoma State stud sparked a tremendous competition worth noting. This couldn’t occur at a more opportune time. According to FootballOutsiders.com, the Cleveland Browns ranked fifth defending against number one receivers, thanks to Joe Haden. Unfortunately, our same defense ranked 20th versus opposing number two wide outs. This is a statistic the Browns hope to improve upon, resulting in a healthy position battle.

Under those circumstances, Justin Gilbert is the perfect candidate to further develop Skrine’s game while adjusting to the professional game. The eighth overall pick is testing his ability by allowing receivers’ space and making it up with his speed. The rookie has every chance to win the starting gig, forcing Buster Skrine into the slot position.

Ultimately, this competition is the best event we can ask for, a young veteran with past struggles fighting an untested rookie trying to prove he belongs. Regardless of who settles into number two and three on the depth chart, the Cleveland Browns will host a dangerous, competitive backfield, consisting of Haden, Gilbert, Skrine, and Donte Whitner.

-Max Gold

Image Credited to: www.dawgpoundnation.com

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